The Yankees and Red Sox meet again after going nearly two months without seeing each other. Currently first and second in the AL East, the clubs have a chance to do some damage to one another during the four-game series in the Bronx.
Steve Lombardi of WasWatching.com of the SNY.tv Network joined us to answer a few questions about the Yankees, as the rivalry resumes in Boston for a three-game set between the AL East’s top two teams.
NESN.com:It seems that each Yankees starter has been streaky this season, but who has been the most reliable. And which starter do you trust the most in a big spot?
Steve Lombardi: Coming into this Red Sox series, A.J. Burnett has made 14 quality starts for the Yankees while CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Joba Chamberlain have 11 quality starts each. So, Burnett has been the Yankees most reliable starting pitcher this season, to date. And because Sabathia, Pettitte and Chamberlain have not been as consistent as Burnett, A.J. gets the "trust" vote by default – although I'm not sure that many in Yankeeland feel all that great about that.
NESN.com: How do you think the Yankees will choose to deal with Joba Chamberlain once he nears his innings limit. And what number the Yankees looking at for the limit?
Steve Lombardi: The Yankees are playing this one close to the vest. I would guess that they're looking at 140-150 innings pitched as the magic number (for them). What happens then? Guessing again, I would say that they'll probably skip his turn when the schedule allows it and/or limit him to five innings per start beginning mid-August or so.
NESN.com: Melky Cabrera is quietly putting together an impressive season and is looking to set career highs in multiple offensive categories. Has Melky reinserted himself into the conversation for commanding a starting position in the future?
Steve Lombardi: Well, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui are probably not coming back next season – as they are free agents and getting older. Austin Jackson is not ready, yet, for the major leagues. So, the Yankees are going to need outfielders in 2010. Unless New York signs some free agent or swings a trade, there's going to be a spot for Melky Cabrera – at least for next season. It will be interesting to see how he performs next year, if he's handed a starting job.
NESN.com: Phil Hughes has been dominant as a setup man, but he is still viewed as a starter in the future by the front office. Do you agree with this or would you leave Hughes in the 'pen?
Steve Lombardi: For me, no question – I leave Hughes in the pen. He's a much better pitcher there – being able to pump up the fastball and use that plus the curve. You can be a two-pitch pitcher out of the pen if you can gas it up or have one outstanding breaking pitch. As a starter, you need to have three quality pitches – unless you have one pitch that's just unhittable. And, when Hughes starts, his fastball has less MPH and is more hittable – and he doesn't have a consistent quality third pitch to keep batters guessing.
NESN.com: Sergio Mitre is not the answer for the Yankees as the No. 5 starter in the rotation, but who is? What options do the Yankees have for the back end of their rotation for the rest of the season?
Steve Lombardi: Pray for rain every fifth day? Seriously, if it's not Mitre, now, it's either Josh Towers or Kei Igawa from Triple-A or move someone from the pen to the rotation. A wild thought: If Damaso Marte comes back, would the Yankees move Phil Coke into the rotation? Probably not – but, you never know. That would beat them bringing back Sidney Ponson for a third time,
NESN.com: What are the keys for the Yankees to winning the four-game series against the Red Sox?
Steve Lombardi: Starting pitching – in terms of the Yankees rotation keeping the game close and not letting it get out of hand early. New York does not want to let Boston start to snow balling some runs in these games. Sure, the Yankees have comeback a lot this season. But, you don't want to be in a spot to have to count on that.
Thanks again to Steve Lombardi for sharing his insight on the Yankees. Don’t forget to check out his blog, WasWatching.com.
Stay tuned Monday for a series preview of the Detroit Tigers, as the Red Sox return to Fenway Park for four games with the AL Central's top team.